Who Among Us Is Perfect?
I made an appointment with a hairdresser. My high school graduation ceremony was the same evening. Dress and high-heels were already taken care of. But now I needed an expert’s help. There was no taming my waist-long, forest-like head of hair. It was raining that morning and I took the family car without permission. My parents were preoccupied with something, but I don’t remember what. Lucky for me, I thought. I asked my sister to come along. I needed an accomplice. I had a learner’s permit. I knew I was supposed to have a driver in the car, someone with a license. My sister didn’t have a license either. Did I mention she was my younger sister? She was another person in the car, I reasoned, and the hairdresser wasn’t that far away. And I didn’t want to wreck my hair. It’s always easier to make a case for your actions after the fact. I’m sure you’ve heard all this before or perhaps you’ve had similar arguments run through your head when you’ve done something you weren’t suppose to do.
The hairdresser washed, styled, brushed and shaped my tresses into a heap on top of my head. Think a layered birthday cake, except this one with sparkly pins rather than candles. I knew my sister was envious. She said, “Gee, you look like an old lady.”
As I made the U-turn a block from my parent’s house, I gazed over at her and thought I saw her scowl or roll her eyes. It reminded me of an old picture my mom had on her dresser. It was another graduation day, this time from pre-school. I was waving my diploma, a smile set on my face. My sister pouted, her arms crossed in front of her. This was the way it would always be, I thought, the older sister enjoying all the firsts. Cool.
The sound of metal scrapping, then collapsing, destroyed my delusions instantly. First I couldn’t breath, then I couldn’t control how fast I gulped air. I backed up and tried the turn again, crashed into the same parked car. I laugh as I write this now. A tear escapes. The scene as I picture it again reminds me of an old cartoon, one where the character keeps making the same mistakes and hoping for a different result. Haven’t we all been there before? Yes, I know, it’s the definition of insanity.
To this day, I remember the feeling of helplessness and the overwhelming urge to run from the mess. The fear overpowered any rational thought, and almost won out. My sister, who has always had the brains in the family, convinced me to park the car and find the owner. We found her, explained what had happened. I left my name and number and explained I would pay for the damages. She reluctantly agreed to put her faith in a hysterical 18-year old girl.
My sister and I decided not to tell our parents about the crash. There was little or no damage to our car. But then, my dad said that he liked my hair and it was a good thing I took the car because it was pouring now and the rain would have ruined it. He didn’t mention that I’d taken the car without permission.
Shit. I could never lie to that man. I fessed up. To his credit my dad didn’t yell at me. Instead, he suggested we go back to the house and talk to the owner of the car.
Her husband was out of town and she had called him. She’d just hung up when we rang the doorbell. She told us her husband had urged her to call the police. My dad convinced her not to call them. He told her he would take full responsibility for all the damages to her car. She was a nice lady and went along with it. My dad did pay the bill; some $300 and I paid him back by working part-time.
That long-ago experience has come to life again for me given the daily barrage of revelations surrounding mayor Rob Ford. While I don’t agree with his politics or his bullying style, Mayor Ford is in trouble, has been for a long time and he needs help. We know he’s not perfect. But who among us is?
The time for witch hunts is over. Yes, I know the city has to be run, business has to go on, but this is someone’s life we’re dealing with. Looking at him day-in day-out on the news, sweat on his forehead, his eyes unfocused, I’m not sure he’s going to make it. That should scare us all.
The day I had the accident could have gone so very differently. But I was lucky enough to have a sister who, when I was at my worst, was calm and told me what to do, I had a dad who saw my mistake and helped me fix it, and I had a victim who was understanding and compassionate enough to trust that I would make things right. Mr. Ford deserves the same break.
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